Thursday, April 06, 2006

Preachers Wife Syndrome?

I guess many of you have been following the news concerning the minister who was shot by his wife recently. Here at Metro there are folks who are suggesting that maybe the wife was abused or that we don't know all that went on behind closed doors. Others suggest depression, PPD, or something else. Maybe it is one of those rare cases of domestic violence where the woman has been controlling (and this killing may be an incidence of abuse). I know that we will find out more as the story unfolds. In any case it is a tragedy.

What caught my attention was the story in People magazine about the "role and pressure" of preachers' wives. Lori and I had a great discussion about that. She indicated that she had never felt the pressures described in the article. Interesting. Have we been lucky in our 18 years of ministry together (21 for me) or have we not fallen into the "trap"? Is it possible that ministry is complex enough that the couple need to draw lines of expectations? I hear at times that ministers and wives make the statement, "my wife is (I am) not a traditional preachers' wife" but what does this mean. Is it possible that the congregation is a black hole that sets the expectations of the wife so high that our response is to be different and proud of it? Or is it the couple's responsibility to serve, work hard, and clarify the role of ministry?

I once visited a widowed preachers' wife with my baby one afternoon. After a few minutes of talking she mentioned how important it was that I spent time with my family and it was nice that I took my son visiting. She then began to talk about how her husband (who was a powerful preacher in the church while alive) had put tGod and the church above her family and their children. As I listened I began to ask myself if "traditional roles" are actually the result of preachers who have neglected the most important people in their lives. Is it possible that the pressure on the "preachers' wife" is actually neglect from her husband? Is it possible that PKs and their struggles are actually actions of neglected children?

I love Lori and feel she is my best friend and partner. She works hard and loves the ministry that we do together. Yet, I have to sacrifice (I hate to use that term) and make sure I have the kids and she gets to fulfill her giftedness in ministry. I also know that she gets neglected from the congregation at times, but for me to neglect her is a greater sin. Its hard taking the kids visiting but it gives her a break and them time to see what we do. It frees her up to meet with women and counsel them. I think that 1 Cor. 9 tells us that Peter was accompanied with his wife and no greater joy can there be than when husbands and wives do ministry together.

Are there pressures or neglect? Thanks Lori--I couldn't imagine doing this without you. You help me to see things and understand people's feelings that bring glory and honor to Jesus.

I love you!


Chessa said...

I am not a preacher's wife so I cannot begin to understand what it would be like or to even give advice, but I am very good friends with a couple of preacher's wives and I have seen the pressure that can be on them. The one thing that I could see and have discussed with both of them was not their husbands neglect but the way the congregation expected them to be. Sometimes we put our ministers on a level that expects no mistakes and an almost non-humanness. I had both of my friends tell me that they told me things that they would never have told anyone else in the congregation and that they felt they could be themselves in front of me.

I guess because I look at them as normal people and not supernatural beings that are not supposed to make mistakes. I can imagine it would be hard to live up to what people expect you to be instead of just being yourself and showing that you make mistakes just like everyone else.

No one is immune to sin, not even preachers and their wives. I do not know if that is what that woman who shot her husband went through, no one ever will, but this was just a thought. Maybe this woman could have went to someone with her problems had there been someone who would have understood that she was a human being that makes mistakes and someone she could have been real to.

SistaSmiff said...

The preacher I had all during my growing up years until I married...his wife was never seen at church. Apparently, she suffered from severe depression or something but checked out of commission before we even started going to that church.

I have a good friend who is a PK and she seems to suffer from a lot of complexes brought on by being constantly on display, no privacy, church members prying into her life, feeling like it is their duty to make sure she finds a man...

KMiV said...

Chessa and Sistasmiff,
Thank you for your comments. I see your points. Is it possible that some of this could rest on us as ministers? I agree that the congregations have expectations but how many ministers draw the line, when hired, and communicate that family is a number one priority?

While I know many ministers who say this--I find less who do it. We are like the business men who say, "I am going to be gone a lot so your job is to take care of the home." Yet we never encourage our wives to have a ministry and do it--which entails taking the kids with us to work.

One Lutheran minister's wife told me--I don't have a pastor. He is everyone else's pastor but when it comes to me I have to understand.

While I agree with you, as a minister and college teacher can I provoke ministers/students to consider this as an option?

What do you think?

Chessa said...

I do agree with you, if I am understanding what you are saying, that the wife should be the husband's number one priority besides our Lord, of course. It is the husband's responsibility to make sure that her emotional and physical needs are being met.

I would imagine that a minister's job would be very entailing considering that most people want you to be availiable 24/7 and be able to drop everything. But you are right; all of that should be made clear when the minister is hired. thanks for visiting my blog. I really enjoy Wineskins a lot.

Penny Maxwell said...

I am a preacher's wife and I have dealt with pressures in ministry but the main issue was perspective. Some people did put pressure on me but I had to choose to accept it. See my fault was (ok and I still work on it)that people would lay their issues and pain at my feet and I would sometimes pick it up. Now it is one thing to help someone but another to let them put unrealistic expectations on you and then you feel you have to live up to that, thus pick up their insecurities is what it boils down to. I mean if I did not say hi to someone in the hallway before I got an ugly email. The problem was that I let it hurt me. I picked up their issue. We just have to know when it is their issue and when it is ours. Because I can sometimes put unrealistic expectations on myself too. Make sense? I wrote a post on my blog about what ministry is like. Feel free to psot back.